Vol. 1, No. 29, Aug. 2, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
The cost of everyday wine
How much should you pay for a good cheap wine?
Perhsps surprisingly, there is no simple answer to this simple question. Wine prices vary considerably around the world, depending on such variables as shipping costs, local taxes, currency exchange rates and even the competitive situation in the local market.
Also, the increasing demand for premium-level wines has driven substantial inflation. As recently as the early 1980s, U.S. retailers used to say that anything over $6 a bottle was a hard sell. Nowadays, if you're looking for anything more interesting than "jug wine," it's almost impossible to find quality for $5 a bottle, and the break point between interesting wine and "plonk" is getting dangerously close to $10.
In my wine buying, I consistently seek wines "of value" -- wines that taste more expensive than they are, whatever their actual price. In practice, most of the wines I report here will fall in the $8 to $15 category, and I try to stay as close to $10 as possible for everyday drinking. But if I have reason to believe that a wine is very good, I'll occasionally go for a $20 or $25 bottle. Anything above that, though, is strictly limited to major holidays and celebratory events like anniversaries and birthdays.
Ultimately, much depends on your personal priorities and the nature of your interest in wine. If I were simply buying wine as a beverage with dinner and didn't consider it a hobby, I'd try to identify a few good, affordable "house" wines and buy them by the case. But both as a wine writer and as a wine hobbyist, I enjoy trying something different just about every day; and with that as my priority, I'm afraid the under-$10 niche becomes exhausted quickly.
What's your personal wine-price target range for everyday enjoyment? If you'd like to participate in an informal survey, send me E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (If you're outside the U.S., please feel free to report in your own currency.) And, as always, don't hesitate to get in touch if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.
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A surprisingly good cheap wine
At US$6, this generic Spanish red from a respected Rioja producer may be one of the cheapest "good" wines currently available. Very dark reddish-purple in color, it offers a ripe, fresh strawberry aroma leading into bright and juicy berry fruit flavors backed by lemon-squirt acidity and a whiff of fragrant black pepper. Quaffable and quenching, it may not be a "classy" wine, but it shows structure and balance surprising for the price. U.S. importer: Associated Wine Distributors, American Canyon, Calif. (July 25, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: A spicy multi-ethnic risotto of Thai sausage and collard greens goes surprisingly well with this simple, hearty red.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
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